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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  April 10, 2011 10:30am-11:00am EDT

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stop gun violence, and others defending the right to bear arms. the spiritual power of the french movie "of gods and men." and how the eastern orthodox fast during great lent. major funding for "religion and ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lilly endowment, an indianapolis-based private family foundation dedicated to its founders interest in religion, community development, and education. additional funding by mutual of
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america, designing customized, individual, and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. and the corporation for public broadcasting. >> welcome! i'm bob abernethy. it's good to have you with us. religious groups were right in the middle of this week's budget battle in washington. as president obama and congressional leaders negotiated funding for this fiscal year, one of the sticking points was whether to cut taxpayer money for planned parenthood. liberal people of faith were among those who rallied in support of continued funding for planned parenthood and its reproductive health services. but conservatives pushed for cuts in those areas, as well as a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the district of columbia. meanwhile, several prominent religious leaders continued their fast to save programs that help poor people in the u.s. and around the world. they said more than 30,000 americans have joined the fast.
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also this week, religious leaders condemned what they called "grave violations of human rights" amid the fighting in the ivory coast. more than 25,000 people sought refuge at a catholic mission after a massacre. aid groups say thousands have died since the post-election conflict began in november and a million have been displaced. people throughout the country are facing food and water shortages. many areas remain inaccessible because of violence. humanitarian concerns also continue for libya. an international coalition of churches this week said more must be done to help those fleeing violence there. they asked neighboring countries to leave their borders open. and in rome, pope benedict xvi offered prayers for the more than 200 killed after a boat full of refugees capsized on its way to italy. libyan leader moammar
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gadhafi, meanwhile, wrote to president obama appealing for an end to the nato air strikes that he called "an unjust war against a small people of a developing country." in afghanistan deadly riots continued over news that a small church in florida had burned the koran. nearly two dozen people have died in protests that began a week ago friday with an attack on a united nations compound. u.s. and afghan officials have condemned the violence, as well as the koran-burning incident that apparently set it off. analysis and discussion of some of the week's news now with kim lawton, managing editor of this program, and kevin eckstrom, editor of religion news service. welcome to you both. kevin, an obscure, publicity seeking pastor in florida oversees the burning of a koran and there are deadly riots in afghanistan. >> right, it's a real challenge
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for this country because the more attention that people pay to him, the more he's sort of egged on to keep doing this kind of thing. but if we don't pay attention to what he's doing, the muslim world thinks that we don't care whether or not korans are being burned in the united states or that they think that maybe all christians or all americans are burning korans when that's clearly not the case. but it's a real pickle as to how much legitimacy you give this guy because the more he gets, the more he's going to keep going. >> and what actually happened was, he had a mock trial, where he put the koran on trial and he had, he actually had an imam speak in defense of the koran but in the end the koran was found guilty and that's when the burning occurred. that was put on the facebook page, on his facebook page. it was put on youtube. but it happened on march 20th. the riots happened quite a while after that in part because local leaders, muslim leaders in afghanistan manipulated it. you know, people in the country
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there didn't necessarily know about it. most americans didn't know about it, except for the fact that people went through with loud speakers in some of these towns and there was also an allegation that hundreds of korans were burned here. so there was a lot of manipulation about what really happened, as well, for a lot of different political purposes. >> another frustration -- the ideological stand-off in washington over the budget. >> well, republicans this week unveiled -- while congress was talking about how are we going to fund the rest of this year -- the republicans also unveiled their blueprint for 2012 and beyond, and they proposed a very radical restructuring of medicare/medicaid, some of those other programs. the congressman who introduced it said it was a moral obligation to do something about medicare/medicaid because it just is simply unsustainable in its current affect and that has a lot of religious groups talking and debating. >> right, and right now we are
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talking about, you know, $100 million for this, $200 million for that, it's relatively small potatoes. what's important about this republican plan is that it's a big picture, long term ideological blueprint for how we should fund the government and fund the services. and the bottom line is that it proposes taking in less revenue through lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy at the same time cutting services to folks who really can't afford to have those services cut. so a lot of religious groups say that it's immoral budgeting to be able to try to balance the budget on the backs of the folks who can't afford to. >> and kim, there was a supreme court decision this week that worried a lot of people interested in the separation of church and state. >> well, the justices in a very close decision rejected a challenge to a program in arizona that gave tax credits that eventually got funneled to private schools, mostly religious schools in that particular case. some taxpayers had challenged that saying that's an establishment of religion and the court said those people didn't have the standing, or the
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legal right, to bring forward that case so it's going to make these challenges to church/state cases more difficult in the future. >> right, since 1968 americans have had a right to challenge these sorts of cases when they think that the government is improperly funding religion. the supreme court has said that. and what's happened in this case and then in a 2007 case, a challenge against the white house faith-based office, is the court is really tightening the screws on this, on making it harder for people to challenge these programs that they think are unconstitutional. >> so, looking around, we have humanitarian crises all over the place, we have natural disasters, we have budget stand-offs. >> wars. >> wars. >> and rumors of wars. >> maybe next week will be better. >> hopefully. we have a special report today on pastors and gun control. for many church leaders, it's a subject that is too controversial to touch.
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but in violent neighborhoods in baltimore and north philadelphia, lucky severson found pastors very much involved on both sides. >> what do we want? >> sign the code. >> what do we want? >> sign the code. >> reporter: this is a rare site these days, protesters outside a gun shop. it's called delia's, and it's in north philadelphia. the organizers are religious leaders from many different faiths. there are also people of faith protesting the protesters, like bill grumbine. >> well, i am not here to demonstrate against the gun store. i'm here to show support for the gun store, and i always have a bible with me. >> reporter: both sides say gun violence is a moral issue, and both rely on their religious views to support their opposing positions. pastor david tatgenhorst and bishop dwayne royster say they're not against guns or gun ownership but can no longer keep silent about gun violence. >> our coalition of pastors and rabbis and different religious
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leaders has just become so appalled that we're so tired of burying young people and policemen. it's just senseless what's happening. >> the numbers of handgun-related crimes and murders in the city of philadelphia is larger than that of most industrialized countries. >> reporter: so these pastors who have preached against gun violence from the pulpit have joined an interfaith group called heeding god's call in cities in pennsylvania and maryland, and they have taken their message to the streets. it's aimed at gun store owners, and it asks them to sign a code of conduct designed to stop so-called "straw purchases." that's where a private citizen buys guns with the intent of reselling them on the street to someone who cannot legally purchase firearms. >> whenever they sell a gun through a straw purchase, there's potentially a body at the end of that gun. >> reporter: the same code of conduct was signed by walmart, the largest seller of firearms in the country. >> what we're asking the gun
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shop owners to do is to do something moral and ethical in terms of their behavior, by being responsible not just for making money for themselves, but to be responsible for the community in which they find themselves, to make sure that guns go to only those who legally have a right to own them and to be able to use them. >> reporter: heeding god's call staged regular protests, sit-ins, and prayer vigils at this philadelphia gun store called colosimo's. the interfaith ministers were responding to a bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms study showing that over 400 guns from colosimo's had been used in crimes. in fact, 12 interfaith ministers including tatgenhorst were arrested for obstruction and conspiracy and spent a night in jail. then they pleaded their case to the judge. >> the judge listened to this, and she acquitted us. our argument was that we were trying to prevent a greater harm by breaking a smaller law. >> reporter: a few months later, colosimo's lost its license to sell guns, a victory for heeding god's call. >> i already have the glock.
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i already have the 1911. >> reporter: when the baltimore chapter of heeding god's call tried to close down clyde's sports shop after complaints of selling guns to straw purchasers, pastor russ tenoff was there to defend the store. one of the owners, bill blamberg, says he won't sign the code because it violates his customers' privacy. but he knows some people get guns who shouldn't. >> and i've had this happen a couple times. a guy comes in, you know he's got a police record. he can't buy one, right? he looks at this gun. it's $549. he says, "i'll give you $1,000 if i can take it today." now i'm not saying some dealers don't do that, but clyde's don't do that. >> reporter: pastor tenhoff leads the safe harbor ministry in a rough baltimore neighborhood. he opposes heeding god's call's mission. >> if we could eliminate all guns, i would be all for that. but the fact of the matter is until jesus puts his feet on the mount of olives and then peace reigns over the whole planet,
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we're going to have to protect ourselves and even protect the people around us, and if the criminals have guns, then we need to have them. >> reporter: one thing is certain -- there is no shortage of guns in the u.s., as many as 300 million at the latest count. in some circles, owning a gun appears to be the patriotic thing to do. for those who predicted a rash of gun control laws after the tucson shooting, barely a whisper. a few weeks after the shooting, the governor of utah signed a bill proclaiming the first official state gun, and the university of texas is about to become the second major school after the university of utah to allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus. clyde wilcox is a professor of government at georgetown university and author of several books on subjects like gun control and the christian right. >> the interesting thing is we've come to the point where the debate is over whether you can carry a weapon in a bar, in a church, in a gymnasium, which were the places in the past where we thought maybe you don't
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want to have a gun because fights can break out or people can become inflamed. so it's really on the edge that we're having this whole discussion now. >> jesus ministered to the most marginalized, and he didn't do it with a gun. he didn't do it with violence. he did it with love. >> i have been a man who has turned the other cheek. you're talking to a man who has been jumped by gangs and beat. you're talking to a man who's been in several knife fights. you're talking to a man who has been shot at, and you're talking to a man who has grown up in the drug-infested violence of this area, and i have turned the other cheek and i have taken beatings. but i'm not going to let my little boy suffer violence. i'm going to act. i'm not going to let my wife be raped. i'm going to act. >> reporter: a number of mainline churches have had longstanding positions in favor of some kind of gun control, but for the most part churches have been noticeably quiet. in fact, an increasing number of pastors are now speaking out in support of the second amendment, saying it was inspired by god.
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>> i talk to a fair number of pastors who kind of take a fundamentalist reading of the second amendment the way they take a fundamentalist reading of the bible. >> reporter: pastor tatgenhorst says he understands why more religious leaders haven't been more outspoken about gun control. >> it happens, and i know that i have had colleagues who are scared to talk about guns. they're afraid that people in the pews will object to that. >> well, the mainline congregations are declining. their populations are aging, and so the question is what issues do you want to take on that might possibly divide your congregation? would you take a risk of losing 10% of your members in a declining church by taking the prophetic stand about gun control at a time when gun control laws are probably not going to be stiffened? >> reporter: rick hellberg is a member of pastor tatgenhorst's church. he supports his pastor's position against gun violence but, unlike the pastor, he sees the second amendment as sacred. his rationale is quite common among opponents of government-sponsored gun control.
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>> if part of my right to hold a gun is to protect myself from the potential tyranny of a government or a standing army, if that's the case, then i should probably be able to be armed almost as well as those standing armies are. the nra takes the position that if we give an inch, washington will take a mile. >> reporter: but this isn't coming from washington. it's coming from faith leaders who are trying to do what they say washington and state governments haven't done, curb gun violence. >> we're not trying to prevent their business. we're not trying to prevent them from selling guns. we're not trying to prevent people who have a legal right to possess guns from possessing them. we just want to make sure they don't get into the hands of the wrong people. >> reporter: while religious voices against gun control are getting louder, so are those on the other side. >> sign the code! >> reporter: who think that something needs to be done to stop the killing. for "religion and ethics newsweekly," i'm lucky severson in philadelphia.
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there's a french movie playing in many cities here that is receiving unusually glowing reviews, from critics and ordinary movie-goers alike. it's "of gods and men," and it's based on the story of trappist monks in algeria during the civil war there in the 1990s. they had to decide whether to leave their muslim neighbors and flee to safety, or stay and risk their lives when threatened by islamic militants. father james martin, culture editor of america magazine, talked with us about the movie and its powerful spiritual themes. ♪ >> i have never seen a film on an overtly religious topic that has affected me so much. i don't think i've ever seen one that's so honest about the life
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of faith. so it blew me away, to use some religious language. the monastery is a microcosm and a little world. i mean, you have the same joys and struggles and jealousies sometimes and arguments. the monks were human beings. they struggled with their faith, these very big questions, you know, about whether to stay. the monks are not as concerned with politics as they are with the people around them. you know, their politics in a sense was the politics of love and charity. for example, the clinic that the medical monk, the brother runs and he's not asking people if they're catholic or not. he's treating mostly muslims. >> the same way that christ loved everybody, the monks love everyone.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> i think that most people think that monks have no idea what goes on outside the walls, and as you can see from this movie that's quite the opposite. they usually have more of an idea of what's going on. ♪
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>> i read an interview that said that 15% of the dialogue is chant, basically, and it shows you that the prayer, for which they gather several times a day, is an integral part of their life. but if you look at the captions carefully, or if you speak french, you'll see that the chants that they've chosen, the psalm prayers that they've chosen, really inform their discernment process. you know, without their life of contemplation their life of action is really meaningless, and their lives of action and contemplation cannot be separated. so to go out and simply minister to people without a sense of where that comes from and without being reliant on god would make those actions kind of empty, i think, as far as they would see, and to contemplate and just stay in their monastery and pray without reaching out to people and without letting your prayer lead you to do something i think would mean that the prayer was kind of empty. so the life of the contemplative and the life of the active person are united in the monks and should be united in all religious people.
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on our calendar, this week, sikhs will celebrate one of their most important holidays, vaisakhi. the day marks the time when sikhs first identified themselves as a distinct group in the 17th century. many hindus also observe vaisakhi as a time of renewal and rebirth. christians are nearing the end of lent, the 40 days leading up to easter. for eastern orthodox christians it's called great lent and it's a time of especially strict fasting. the eastern orthodox observe fasts of one kind or another all year, no meat on some days, no dairy or oil on others. but lent involves special disciplines, and orthodox calendars serve as reminders. going without some foods is intended to bring the person fasting closer to god.
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catherine mandell of clearview, pennsylvania, talked with us about her russian orthodox family's lenten fast. >> the church generally gives us a calendar to help us track those days that we are to fast and which days we're allowed not to fast. we have several other fasting periods during the year. if you take all those days together, you are fasting for more than half the year. the fasts vary in strictness. great lent is the most strict because it is the biggest feast that we're preparing for, easter. we fast wednesdays and fridays during the regular parts of the year. we don't eat meat, we don't eat dairy products, egg, fish, anything animal related. we don't cook with oil at all on the days that we have to fast from oils. we tend to abstain from alcoholic beverages and wine. if you're an able-bodied person and you're healthy, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to fast.
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that being said, if you are aged or infirm, if you have some kind of illness, you need to make adjustments in your diet. i was born orthodox. i don't have any memories of not fasting for meat. we didn't fast from dairy products or fish. when my husband and i were married, we decided that we wanted to be a little more strict, that we wanted to follow the church's teaching that we would fast for meat and dairy and oil. my children have no recollection of not fasting, ever. it was very difficult at first. we ate a lot of spaghetti and tomato sauce and a lot of split pea soup because, basically, those where things i knew i could make that tasted good. to make it more interesting, i pulled from different cultural and ethnic types of food, indian curries, asian stir fries, middle-eastern cuisine, to try to make food that was more tasty, more diverse, so that we're not eating the same thing
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day after day and getting so frustrated and bored with fasting foods. >> it's amazing when you have the resources. i mean, you can make something different every day and you wouldn't get bored with anything. at school it's a little trying. but i make do as best i can. >> you get so many questions about fasting when you're an orthodox christian because we're so strict with our fasting in comparison to other churches. fasting is not about deprivation. it's not about suffering. it's something that you make a choice to do. you're supposed to do in freedom and joy so that you can get ready for the resurrection of christ. you do it for yourself. the bible even says, "fast in secret." and, if for some reason you break the fast because you've gone somewhere and you've been served something, instead of proclaiming yourself as fasting, you humbly eat what is served to you and then fast twice as hard in secret. during lent, you don't only want to fast from food.
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you fast with your mouth and your ears, you hold council with your tongue so you're fasting from gossip and slander. you don't have sex during great lent because you're abstaining from passions of the flesh. you do more acts of charity, more time in prayer and reading the scripture. that's what makes the fast. it's not just what you eat, it's how much you're eating. it's a concept called right eating, eating the right foods, at the right times, in the right amounts, for the right reason. how to correct yourself and what you need to do to get to the celebration of the resurrection. because, ultimately, you're working on getting into the kingdom of heaven. finally, the vatican put out a come-one, come-all invitation this week for the beatification of the late pope john paul ii, on may 1st. 300,000 pilgrims are expected for the $1.7 million extravaganza.
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there will be masses and vigils and giant tv screens. john paul's coffin will be brought up for the occasion from the crypt under st. peter's to a more accessible location near the basilica's entrance. beatification requires at least one proven miracle after a person's death. one more miracle would now be required for sainthood for john paul. a near-miracle has already occurred. the vatican says many of rome's hotels have agreed not to raise their room rates during the celebration. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. there's much more on our web site, including more of our interview with father james martin about the movie "of gods and men." you can comment on all of our stories and share them. audio and video podcasts are also available. you can follow us on facebook and twitter, find us on youtube, and watch us anytime, anywhere on smart phones and iphones with our mobile web app.
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join us at ♪ major funding for religion and ethics newsweekly is provided by the lilly endowment, an indianapolis-based private family foundation dedicated to its founders interest in region, community development, and education. additional funding by mutual of america, designing customized individual, and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. and the corporation for public broadcasting.
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